Cancer survivor, amputee, teacher: Yoga ‘pulled me in and gave me hope’

Marsha Therese Danzig is a yoga specialist and author who has a passion for flamenco dancing.

She’s also a below-the-knee amputee, kidney transplant recipient and long-term cancer survivor believed to be one of the first amputees in the U.S. to teach yoga.

Danzig, who has a master’s in education from Harvard, said she “has been working in the healing arts fields for over two decades,” said Danzig. “I use yoga to help people, including myself, recover from trauma and reduce their pain and suffering.”

Born and raised in Albany, New York, Danzig came to the Oakwood and Dayton area in June of 2015 to teach yoga because her sister and family reside here.

“I also really love the people here—very warm hearted and welcoming. And there are a lot of exciting things going on in Dayton. I have a feeling Dayton will become a destination city for younger people as it is so livable and there is so much happening creatively,” Danzig said.

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As a 5-year-old, Danzig had Ewings sarcoma, a slow growing tumor of the bone or soft tissue, that usually affects children. It was in her lower left tibia (near the ankle.)

“At that time, I was given radiation, chemotherapy and last rites. I did recover, but the damage to my left leg and my body was done. My left leg was thinner, and as I grew, it became shorter,” she said. “The cancer treatments did permanent damage to my bladder and my kidneys, which eventually led to kidney and bladder failure as an adult.”

From the age of 4 to 13 and then again in adulthood, Danzig was a gymnast, ballerina and swimmer. At 13, Ewing’s sarcoma recurred in the same spot.

“They were unable to administer radiation, so the only alternative to save my life was chemotherapy and leg amputation,” Danzig said.

“I started yoga when I was a child,” she said. “I was intrigued by the yogis I found in books such as The Guinness Book of World Records and the encyclopedia. Since I was a gymnast, I wanted to contort my body to look like the Indian mystics I saw.”

Her initiation into the full practice of yoga came when a friend taught her the Sun Salutation on a huge rock in the Mojave Desert.

“I was 23. I felt like I had known the practice my entire life, and soon began to take classes. This was not easy as I had a different prosthetic leg which was less secure,” she said.

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Yoga mats didn’t exist then, she said.

“We practiced on blankets and towels, so I really learned how to stabilize my body from the inside out. I then attended some incredible yoga classes with Laurel Hefner, a yoga teacher here in Dayton, when I visited my sister who lived here,” Danzig said.

Hefner taught Danzig what she called the deeper truths of yoga.

“I had been suffering in my soul, due to the ongoing issues with my kidneys which led to kidney failure and dialysis. The deeper practices of yoga — mantra, meditation, mudra, yoga nidra — were what pulled me in and gave me hope,” she said.

She began teaching yoga classes.

“At first I had small groups, but they soon blossomed into about 20 students or so,” said Danzig. “I mostly work one on one, in small groups and train large groups of people at conferences and trainings around the globe.”

Danzig wrote her memoir “From the Roots: The True Story of How I Beat Death and Learned to Live.” The book is available at Amazon and at many local Dayton libraries.

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“Healing begins at home, within,” said Danzig.

The book shows that disability is not inability, suffering is perception, creating beauty is important, humor matters, we are stronger than we think, self-love is self-mastery and God, indeed, is in every breath.”

Danzig runs and can be reached by email at or by phone at (937) 999-8058.

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